We should not think of the idea of renunciation to be the need to escape samsara and run away from it. What is it then? In this world, whether we are politicians, tradesmen, householders, followers of religions with our views and tenets, or however we might think, there are diverse ways of performing activities in a human’s life. Nevertheless, whatever kind of task we carry out, we should always do it according to our ability.
If we think carefully on this matter at an appropriate level, we can understand it. Based on this reflection, we have methods which will enable us to decrease the suffering of both body and mind. Generally speaking, whatever work we do, we encounter hardships because we place very great attachment, hopes and aims on our tasks. When we are working, if we are not able to attain these predetermined hopes and aims, additional suffering is generated. If we carry out an activity adequately, with appropriate hopes and aims, and without great attachment, that many hardships will not be able to arise in us. This we know based on our own experience, and it is also taught within our religion.
For example: Within Buddhism, there are many types of Dharma practitioners. “Because I am a Buddhist practitioner, I must be different than others”; with this kind of motivation in mind one thinks that great goals must be achieved. To practice, to study the views and tenets and to meditate based on such hopes, we will not be able to fulfill our wishes. If we have great hopes, our practice will be weak, and if we are not moderate with our hopes and wishes, our mind will become unhappy. Instead of gaining benefit through Dharma, a lot of harm will be caused. Everyone has that experience- As shown in the previous example, regardless of the activity we do, if we work according to our ability, I have confidence that hardships will decrease. For that reason, it is important to believe in oneself(i.e. to be self-confident), and it is difficult to believe in others. Just as we initially have confidence, affection and kindness for ourselves, it is also good to be able to lead that loving mind on the sublime path. Everyone has a caring mind. However, even if we understand what is necessary to benefit and treat ourselves affectionately, it is a mistake if we do not apply it properly. It is crucial that a sincere wish and its application go hand in hand.
The particular quality of human beings that distinguishes them from other beings like animals, is the ability to accomplish activities that generate vast and extraordinary benefits. Even when considering evil actions, a single person has the ability to destroy the whole world. Due to that we should not use that human power in a perverted way, but use it properly. If, on a daily basis and for as long as they are present, we are able to transform ill-will, hypocrisy and a mind that deceives others into their opposites – a good mind, an altruistic mind and the ability to accomplish sincere proper altruistic activities – there will be a decrease in wars, hardships and suffering in this world. When we are able to experience that directly, joy and happiness will become abundant, they will flourish and expand. There are many different human kinds and attitudes. Yet, whatever our task is, if we have very strong clinging and immense aims and hopes, unless we work according to our ability, we will encounter many difficulties. Having recognized that and having worked appropriately, if the application (or practice) is also done in a convenient manner, the benefit will be that we will experience a decrease in hardships. We are all able to walk on such a path. If we try we will certainly be able to follow it. For that reason, if we continually work according to our ability then the task is going to flourish. Why is that? It is because there is also great benefit in accomplishing individual wishes. However, this is not the case when we hold on to an immense goal. When we work enormously hard it is difficult to attain our goal. If we initially have this adequate motivation, the great benefit will be that our activities themselves will also increase and expand. This is connected to renunciation. Considering the understanding and recognition of the nature of samsara, once we undertake a task, suffering is going to decrease, but if we do not know the nature of samsara well and work too much, there will be many hardships. Therefore, we should first analyze without mistake the nature of samsara through reasoning. Once we understand this well, any spiritual and worldly action we perform can match with our ability. That is the essential meaning to be understood.
Next, in this second point, while our spiritual conditions ripen, I will explain the so-called mind of enlightenment.
The mind of enlightenment, bodhicitta, is commonly known as “altruism.” To give rise to a good mind that benefits others, first we need to first benefit ourselves and if we are able to improve ourselves, we will be able to benefit others. Nevertheless, if we cannot benefit ourselves from the beginning, we will not be able to benefit others. This being so, one may ask: “what did the Buddha say about Bodhicitta in the context of those two stages?”
[The Buddha] said that you will not eliminate all your mental sufferings nor attain genuine joy and happiness if you do not rely on bodhicitta, a mind that benefits others. It is not easy for an altruistic mind to be born. No one benefits through “oral compassion” (i.e. talking about compassion, but not acting). Bodhicitta and genuine love do not mean to occasionally help helpless people we encounter. The defining characteristic of an enlightened mind is to abandon the attachment we have for ourselves. As long as there is this feeling of attachment and love for ourselves, we must also be able to give it to others, even to our enemies. In order to be accustomed to that, we should familiarize ourselves with and train a lot in using this altruistic mind. There are many stories about the ability to sincerely and truly take the suffering of others upon oneself and to be able to give to others one’s own happiness. Because this is very important, I am going to discuss here the purpose of this great strength of mind.
This world is not the only one and sentient beings are limitless. To be able to eradicate all their sufferings and to bring them complete happiness, the right motivation and the right practices are needed. In this regard, one should have neither temporary nor permanent hopes. If one truly wants to help, one should not wish to attain good results in the future as a retribution for these acts. In the context of differentiating bodhicitta, the altruistic mind, I am going to speak about two things: loving-kindness and compassion.
The loving mind is the feeling we have when we wish all sentient beings to attain not only happiness, but happiness together with its causes. This is loving kindness. The compassionate mind is the very strong feeling we have when we wish all sentient beings to be free from their physical and mental sufferings together with their causes. This is compassion.
Sometimes such feelings exist, sometimes they do not, but they always should. Generally, within the great vehicle, it is said that all sentient beings have been our parents, and because of that there is great kindness. Therefore the way to generate the enlightened mind is taught first. However, independently of the fact that all sentient beings have been our parents or not, in the main practice of bodhicitta it is very important to be in a certain state of mind which holds that others are more precious than ourselves. Well then, how should one practice the mind of enlightenment? There are two stages. The first is the motivation by which one thinks:” I will free every sentient being from suffering and establish them in the state of complete happiness.” This is called, “smon pa’i sems”, bodhicitta of aspiration. Through this alone there is no ultimate benefit and one is not free from suffering. One needs to actually apply it in order to attain happiness. The thought:”I will practice this,” is called “jt’tg pa’i sems” – bodhicitta of application. Therefore, one should train in the loving and compassionate minds. It is a practice of the great vehicle and it is very important! According to us Buddhists, if such a basis is missing, there is no chance to study the highest views and tenets. At the time of practicing these Buddhist views and tenets, we should follow a sequence. If it is a clear one, then there is an opportunity to achieve the highest result in a short time. If this is not the case and if we are not able to follow a real order and practice irregularly, we will not achieve our aims and the result will not happen.
In our daily lives we need to think as follows. For example: The so-called “I.” Generally speaking, as soon as we come into contact with something pleasant, attachment always arises. When we see an undesirable object, aversion arises. If we do not examine those feelings, they will remain. Moreover, when we see a stranger we have a neutral feeling. This is our unexamined, usual and common worldly feeling. This discussion does not only concern Buddhist scholars and practitioners, but it will benefit anyone who has great suffering, unhappiness and many hardships in his or her mind. What makes the mind unhappy? There are two types of discursive thoughts, attachment and aversion. Generally it is said in Buddhism that there are many discursive thoughts and amongst them, attachment and aversion, which both cause great difficulties, are considered to be the root of them all. To give an example: The root cause of calling a person we do not like “an enemy” and a person we like “a friend”, is ego-clinging. The “I” is very precious to us. When we do not agree with someone, we call him an enemy while when we agree, we call him a friend. All difficulties come based on those two concepts of enemy and friend. Also, if an unhappy person meets a happy one, both might become enemies. If an enemy meets my friend, the enemy of that friend might become my enemy as well, and there will be great suffering. Moreover, if it is his friend, he also might become an enemy. Enemies and friends will never be fundamentally exhausted. When we investigate, we find that the root cause of these concepts of friends and enemies is the so-called “I.” It is therefore difficult to completely eliminate enemies of the outside world.
An Indian scholar said the following:”I need to wander around in the world but when all those stones and thorns pierce my soles, I feel great pain. Because of that, to talk around easily, should I cover the whole earth with leather? There is not enough leather in the world for me to carry! Then, what would be the best method? If I carry two small pieces of leather on both of m soles, it would be similar to covering the whole world with leather.”
What does this mean? It means that we cannot deal with all the enemies and friends of the entire world. In that case, what is the use of fighting with all our enemies and pleasing all our friends? If we overcome the grasping towards enemies and friends which is based on our individual minds, it is said that our mind will be happy.